Avignon, France - Part 3 - Orlando / Florida Guide
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On your second day look for a different perspective on the Palais des Papes. Try booking a secret palace tour, which permits access to areas usually of limits to visitors. However English tours used to be available only on Fridays at 3 pm, you may want to check the latest information as these things tend to change.
Now explore Villeneuve-lès-Avignon, the ‘new’ city – which as you now know isn’t new at all. To get there, walk or take Bus 5, which leaves from Avignon’s Porte de l’Oulle and disembark at the F Mistral stop.
Walk down Rue de la République and browse the gifts and olive oils, which are pressed on site, at Moulin à Huile before visiting La Chartreuse, the 14th-century monastery founded by Pope Innocent VI. This atmospheric complex of cloisters, cells and gardens now hosts theatre performances.
There is a walking trail from here up to Fort St-André. This formidable walled bastion once protected 190 dwellings with most now in ruins. There are great views over Avignon and Provence and on a clear day, you can see Mont Ventoux. You can also visit the Benedictine abbey.
After this lofty lookout, wind your way down the pretty old streets to the main square which is lined with pleasant cafés and pass Notre Dame church. After a coffee break continue south to the medieval Tour Philippe le Bel, which once marked the western end of the Pont d’Avignon. A steep climb up the 39m-high tower yields more good views.
Walk back over the Rhône to old Avignon or you can walk halfway to Île de la Barthelasse. Here you can enjoy a stroll alongside the river and then ride the free shuttle boat over to the stunted Pont d’Avignon. Here, a visit to the bridge’s museum details its history and lets you dance upon its remaining arches, made famous in a children’s song
If you stay a third day then the Provençal countryside beckons, a land of abundant vineyards and precariously perched hilltop villages, dominated by that nemesis of many a Tour de France cyclist, 1, 909m Mont Ventoux.
You could take a bus or train to Orange, to explore the small, lively city’s well-preserved Roman theatre and triumphal arch. Buses also connect Orange and Avignon to Châteauneuf du Pape the village capital of the renowned wine region, which is dominated by a ruined papal castle.
The Châteauneuf du Pape appellation is one of France’s most revered, so this is the place to swill, sip and slurp with many local wine shops offering, ‘dégustation gratuite’ which is free tastings, as does the informative Musée du Vin.
As buses are infrequent and you will not want to drive after all the tastings it’s easiest to book a taxi or a tour. Avignon Tourism offers a half-day Chateaux & Domaines trip, including two tastings at Châteauneuf vineyards from €60pp and Viator’s five-hour Orange & Châteauneuf small group tour combines Roman ruins with tipples in the terroir from £50pp.
You could hire a bike from €12 a day to go around the vineyards or take a pedal along the banks of the Rhône. Either way, there is plenty here to keep you busy over that long weekend.
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